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Infrastructure matters: shifting towards smart mobility

Sustainability Matters

February 3, 2020

A well-planned infrastructure will be the key to unlocking CASE’s potential and meeting mobility challenges in Australian communities.

By 2056, the population of Australia will have hit 30 million people, with major implications for our transport systems. In Sydney alone, the NSW Government predicts there will be twice as many daily vehicle and public transport trips as today, and cars will account for around three-quarters of the growth.

With more vehicles on our roads, there are concerns about safety, the environment and congestion.

Nearly 1300 people die in vehicle incidents each year, and 36,000 are hospitalised. Transport is this country’s third-largest and fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. Our annual congestion-related costs for the Australian economy will hit an estimated $40 billion by 2031 — twice the 2016 figure.

Fortunately, new modes and infrastructure advances are emerging that will innovate demand management, improve safety and reduce environmental impact. They present Australia with unparalleled opportunities to improve how people move around our cities and regions.

Arcadis’ interactive Future Mobility experience details how evolving infrastructure and transport modes can make every journey seamless, efficient and safe. Most will be facilitated by CASE, supported by intelligent transportation systems (ITS) which, for example, enable innovative approaches to demand management.

Exciting times lie ahead for transport infrastructure owners, designers and operators. But the benefits are only possible if we invest in futureproofing state and national transport infrastructure so it supports smart mobility. This means focusing on three key areas: communication systems, technology choices and shared learning.

Future Mobility will generate monumental levels of data exchange, so a strong communications backbone is essential, preferably using fibre optics or fibre-wireless systems — every road-widening project should include a fibre installation.

While public–private partnerships (PPPs) are useful for sharing the related risks and costs, it’s important to remain technology and vendor agnostic. Interoperability and scalability are essential for long-term sustainability.

Learning from interstate and international case studies is also important. Pilots and studies are taking place all over the world, including Australia. Truck platooning, which uses connected and autonomous technology to improve freight transport safety and efficiency, is being seriously investigated in Western Australia in a government–private sector partnership.

Intelligent communications, electric vehicle (EV) and shared mobility infrastructure will ultimately make journeys safer, cheaper and more efficient, and integrating them into infrastructure planning will unlock their full potential.

New modes and network solutions will reshape environments according to citizens’ specific needs and international enhancements will be adapted to suit Australian conditions. We should expect more innovative urban planning, such as fewer parking zones and more ridesharing vehicle pick-up and drop-off hubs. And as this is a long-term vision, new modes and network advances will probably be adopted incrementally, with interim changes such as dedicated lanes, striping and signing for connected and shared vehicles until every vehicle is fully automated.

It’s a large-scale, fundamental and systemic revolution that will affect every Australian, with no one-size-fits-all approach. Despite the challenges, Australia must embrace smart mobility — it is the most exciting transport evolution in our lifetimes.

While advanced future mobility plans might not be in reach for every owner and operator today, starting preparations now will make it easier to seize the benefits more quickly in the future.

Proactive Future Mobility planning: six key steps

1. Create your vision and strategy

Identify your city, regional and state mobility needs and how emerging technologies and trends might support them, with a high-level, aspirational vision and specific objectives for smart mobility planning.

2. Assess your current ITS architecture, programs and projects

This will define realistic project scopes and establish consistency when expanding. Knowing your capabilities and opportunity areas allows for incremental implementations that maximise resources and eliminate redundancies.

3. Review industry initiatives

Assess plans from other organisations to see what you can use to enhance your area’s mobility environments. Find plans with similar constraints or needs.

4. Determine Future Mobility opportunities

Consider how the latest mobility, safety and environmental applications might enhance mobility in your area’s transport environments. Prioritise initiatives according to your needs and goals and their deployment status — there might be some low-risk, early-start initiatives for immediate action. Look for opportunities to engage the public, private and university sectors for potential partnerships.

5. Secure funding

Successfully integrating Future Mobility with infrastructure represents a big investment, so it is important to consider traditional and non-traditional funding sources for pilots and projects. Private companies, for example, might share deployment costs in exchange for data access.

6. Consider the wider impacts of smart mobility

View targeted projects through institutional, policy and technical lenses. Consider the need for staff training and potential policy, legal or legislative changes, such as revising road rules and associated laws.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Lars